The end-of-the world apocalypse, predicted for Dec. 21, 2012, and talk of other major world-altering events are based on various interpretations of messages left by the Mayan civilization in Mexico and Central America, with a bit of astrology tossed into the mix.
If you read what’s out there in books, magazine articles and TV shows, you can take your choice of all kinds of 2012 scenarios.
I’m not about to make any predictions of what the year 2012 will bring to our town, but I have one theory of my own to toss out: Every 50 years, major changes with long-term impacts take place in our town.
I’m not relying on the Mayan calendar (said to end in 2012) but on back copies of the Press and other historical records, which recount developments of 100 years ago — 1911 — and 50 years ago — 1962.
Looking back a full century to 1911, I found these developments:
• Following the incorporation of the city of Tracy in 1910, the city’s first water and sewage systems were completed in 1912. Water and sewer lines were laid under streets, and the 100,000-gallon water tower still extending 200 feet in the air at Sixth Street and Tracy Boulevard was completed. Another major development in 1912 for the city of Tracy was the establishment of the Tracy Fire Department and naming Tom Eagan first chief. Until then, Tracy had a volunteer fire department.
• Voters of the Tracy area approved the formation of the West Side Union High School District, meaning Tracy students wouldn’t have to leave town to attend high school. A successful ballot measure in 1909 to establish a high school district had been nullified when the county superintendent of schools failed to provide election documents to the county clerk. But this time, voters in the Tracy, Carnegie, Lammersville and Jefferson school districts approved the formation of the high school district. First classes were held in the new Central School building on Central Avenue. (Banta, New Jerusalem and David Bixler school districts joined later, and in 1928, the district was renamed the Tracy Union High School District.)
• The Naglee-Burk Irrigation District was established on 4,300 acres northwest of town in 1912, bringing irrigation to the Tracy district and changing agriculture — until then based on dry-land grain farming — in a revolutionary way. (The West Side Irrigation District followed in 1918, and the Banta-Carbona Irrigation District in 1921.)
• Changes in Tracy’s industrial base were emerging in 1962. The Southern Pacific yard, a key element in Tracy’s founding in 1878 as a railroad junction, was moved east of town. Moving the S.P. station to a new steel building (since demolished) east of MacArthur Drive completed the move in January 1962. At the same time as S.P. operations were moving east, Owens-Illinois was opening its glass-container plant west of town. At the outset, about 150 employees — many hired locally — were at work producing glass bottles for baby food and ketchup from a single furnace and three forming machines.
• Trustees of the Tracy Joint Union High School District and Tracy (Elementary) School District decided to form a common administration to manage both districts. James R. French, superintendent of a similar arrangement in Dinuba, was hired as superintendent of what became Tracy Public Schools. The two school boards continued to function separately — and mostly cooperatively. (The two districts were unified in 1996, but the rural elementary districts sending high school students to the Tracy Unified School District continue to operate independently.)
• It was announced in 1962 that what had been the Tracy Annex of Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop would become a standalone depot as part of the new Defense Supply Agency. The major change was signaled by a visit to the depot by Army Lt. Gen. Andrew McNamara, director of the new agency to provide supplies common to all armed forces. The change in operations at Defense Depot Tracy, scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 1963, would add 484 new employees and an enlarged management staff of military and civilian personnel. The Tracy depot, established in 1942 as a sub-depot of the California Quartermaster Depot, is now a major component of what has become the Defense Logistics Agency. Tracy is now the headquarters and operational center for the two-site (Tracy and Sharpe) Defense Distribution Depot San Joaquin.
As I mentioned early on, I have no profound prognostications to make for 2012. But I keep wondering what the city’s negotiations with a firm with $100 million in annual locally based revenue and at least 1,000 employees could mean in the way of a significant change for our town.
If a deal were struck, it could mean a whole bunch, providing new evidence to bolster my thesis that important changes do indeed occur here every 50 years.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.